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Mid-20th Century Developments in Anatomy

Dr. Richard Lorraine de Chasteney Holbourne Saunders became the next Head of the Department of Anatomy (1949-1972).  He took his undergraduate training in Africa, having been born in the Union of South Africa.  His medical education was in Edinburgh University.  He started in Dalhousie as an assistant professor with Professor Maitland in 1937, and spent the next 35 years in the Department of Anatomy. 

Dr. Saunders described the Department at the time he assumed the Headship in '49: "a small dissecting room (12 tables), a store room in which specimen crocks stood on wooden trestles, an office for the professor and another for his assistant.  The assistant’s room was quite bare, and there was no equipment worth mentioning other than the department head’s microscope.  Lectures and demonstrations were illustrated by diagrams and pictures torn from old textbooks and atlases.  The department had no tools, and bodies were transported on wooden stretchers.  The teaching of histology and embryology was conducted separately by Prof. and Mrs. Raymond Bean, who had sufficient microscopes and slides for a class of sixty.  Cooperation on their part made it possible for the anatomy staff to make some histological preparations.  The anatomy research budget in 1937 was $20!  Near the end of the War (1945), the oiled wooden floors were covered with linoleum, the dismal brown varnish on the walls hidden by a clean looking turquoise paint, and much-needed carpentry and plumbing provided".

The Anatomy Museum, now incorporated in the Anatomy Learning Resource Centre on the 14th floor of the Tupper Building, was started by Dr. Saunders in an attic storeroom of the old library of the Forrest Building.  The entire staff of the Anatomy Department during the war years consisted of Dr. Mainland, Dr. Richard Saunders, his wife Dr. Sarah Saunders, and Dr. Roberta Bond-Nichols.  During this time a grant from the Markie Foundation provided the Department with a standard x-ray unit that was used to carry out research on bone growth and development.

In the 1950's the Department expanded in size; a "living anatomy" laboratory was built and equipped with examination couches, x-ray boxes, and electromyography equipment, and a larger histology laboratory was constructed along with a photographic darkroom and animal operating room.  The Histology, Embryology and Neuroanatomy courses were updated, and during this period the Department started to produce the comprehensive teaching slide collection that is still used by our students of histology and neuroanatomy.  This teaching collection of microscope slides was begun by Prof. and Mrs. R.J. Bean, with the help of Mrs. Lorna Goudge of the Department, and was known as the "Bean-Goudge Collection" at that time.

In 1953 Dr. Saunders was awarded a National Research Council grant to purchase a specially-built x-ray research microscope from Philips of Holland.  This equipment was used for microcirculatory studies on the blood supply of muscle and connective tissues, and led to a number of publications from Dr. Saunders' laboratory in international journals. 

Work on the plans for a 'new' anatomy department began in 1962, and in October, 1967, the Anatomy Department moved from the Forrest Building into the new Sir Charles Tupper Building, a Centennial project to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.   The Department still occupies the 12th, 13th and 14th floors of the Tupper Building, with the morgue facilities situated in the Basement, and some faculty members are located in offices in multi-disciplinary laboratories on the 15th floor of the Tupper.


At the time of the move to the Tupper Building, the Department was responsible for teaching 475 students in the Faculties of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.

Dr Saunders retired in 1972 and was followed by an interim Head, Dr Forrest W. Fyfe, for one year.  Dr Fyfe had joined the Department in 1956, coming from Aberdeen University.  His textbook, "Anatomy of the Human Body" (1959) by R.D. Lockhart, G.F. Hamilton and F.W. Fyfe, was an internationally successful text in gross anatomy for medical students.


Early History > Mid 20th Century > Modern Department > Today